Aligning client expectations at the beginning of a project is the key to their happiness and yours. Availability and communication expectations are two of the most important to align.
It's important for clients to know when and how they can reach you. It's also important for them to know when they can't.
And it's OK that they can't sometimes. I agree with Jason Fried, CEO of 37Signals, that sometimes work can wait -
If you’ve used a modern chat, collaboration, or messaging app, you’ve probably noticed that there’s a growing expectation of being available all the time.
Someone at work hits you up on a Saturday, you get the notification, and what are you supposed to do? You could ignore them, but what’s the expectation? The expectation is “if you’re reachable, you should reply.”
And if you don’t reply, you’ll likely notice another message from the same tool or a tool switch to try to reach you another way. And then the pressure really mounts to reply. On a Saturday. Or at 9pm on a Wednesday. Or some other time when it’s life time, not work time.
…We believe Work Can Wait is an important notion. 9pm on Friday night is not work time. 6am on Wednesday morning is not work time. It may be for you, but it’s not for me. And I don’t want it to be work time for my employees either.
(My gratitude to Ian Patrick Hines for pulling out this version of Jason's quote in his post about fostering a healthy work culture in a client services business.)
Here's the template I use to align my clients' expectations. I send a version of it to each new client I work with, at the start of our first project -
I find it helpful to set availability and communication expectations with new clients and partners. Here are a few notes about my availability and communication style.
I've learned these guidelines enable -
-You to do your work with minimal disruption and distraction, while not having to worry about what you hired me to do
-Me to perform at my best for clients
-A successful collaboration and project delivery
A big reason I freelance is to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I have a strong appreciation for balancing hard work and well-being. This balance enables me to bring sustainable high performance to the work I do.
You can read more about this approach on my blog.
I'm generally available between 9A-5P US ET. I can be available outside of those hours if needed. The more advance notice given, the more likely I can be available outside that window.
I'm usually available for calls given at least 1 working day's notice. I can be available in critical situations with less notice. My experience scheduling calls with less than 1 working day's notice is doing so becomes a significant distraction for both of us.
I believe in the power of asynchronous communication.
I've also learned it's important to have uninterrupted blocks of work time.
This is why I'm not tied to email or chat/IM at all times. I check email often enough to not miss key messages.
I'm on chat/IM when we've scheduled a time to connect. I'm on more often if we decide chat/IM is the project's primary communication channel.
It's also why I recommend using a project management tool to manage projects. Using one helps us streamline our communications. It also helps keep our Inboxes clean and minimizes always-on inefficiency! Hopefully most project communication happens in and through the tool.
If you need to get in touch with me right away, please text or call on [my mobile #]. I'll respond as soon as I'm able to.
P.S. - An older version of this post and template was first published here.